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Extra man the difference as Portlaoise strike late to see off 14-man Ballyfin

Paul Cahillane

Ballyfin 2-8 Portlaoise 2-10
Laois Senior Football Championship

Portlaoise are through to Round 3 of the SFC after they survived an almighty scare against neighbours Ballyfin.

They found themselves nine points down at one stage in the first half but goals from Damon Larkin and Benny Carroll helped them battle back to win.

They were aided too by the sending off of George Lanham for a second yellow card but their woes in front of goal continue.

Portlaoise hit 12 wides and left a number of shots short but this time they got out of jail and keep their campaign alive.

Ballyfin started this game like a train and were 1-1 up inside the first two minutes.

The first point came from a Sean Moore free and the second was a goal following a very unfortunate moment for Portlaoise keeper Michael O’Connell.

George Lanham’s shot from 40 metres dropped short but went through the young keeper’s hands and into the top corner of the net.

Portlaoise responded with a Paul Cahillane free and he followed that with one from play.

Sean Moore landed a brace before Ballyfin’s second goal arrived in the 13th minute. A long range shot from Jack Priestley came back off the upright and Moore was on hand to finish it off from close range.

Moore then won a mark and pointed that to leave it 2-4 to 0-2 to Ballyfin at the first water break.

The sides swapped points on the resumption through Allan Connolly and Cahillane before Moore’s third free made it a nine point game after 22 minutes.

Portlaoise were in deep trouble but they gave themselves a chance when Kieran Lillis caught a kick-out that sparked an attack involving Conor Boyle and Ricky Maher with Damon Larkin breezing in for a goal.

Larkin followed that with a point but a late Moore free left Ballyfin 2-7 to 1-4 ahead at half time.

Ricky Maher cut the gap at the restart and Ballyfin were then reduced to 14 men after 39 minutes when Goerge Lanham was shown a second yellow card for a foul on Damon Larkin.

But Portlaoise only scored once more before the water break through Gareth as Ballyfin led 2-7 to 1-6 at this point.

However, Portlaoise’s luck finally turned when Ben Dempsey hoisted a ball in and a scramble at the back post ensued with Benny Carroll flicking it into the net.

Ballyfin appealed for a square ball and that the ball had gone wide before being punched into the net but referee Joe Brennan consulted with his umpires and awarded the goal.

Sub Jason Maher kicked Portlaoise level after 54 minutes and another sub, Ronan McEvoy, stepped up to put them ahead with a long range free.

Ciaran McEvoy made it a three point game as three minutes of injury time were signalled.

Ballyfin, who still hand’t scored in the second half, went in search of an equalising goal but a shot from Aidan Keenaghan whistled over.

They head for the relegation semi finals while Portlaoise are into Round 3.

SCORERS – Ballyfin: Sean Moore 1-6 (one mark, four frees), George Lanham 1-0, Allan Connolly 0-1, Aidan Keenaghan 0-1 Portlaoise: Paul Cahillane 0-3 (one free), Damon Larkin 1-1, Benny Carroll 1-0, Ciaran McEvoy 0-2, Ronan McEvoy 0-1 (free), Gareth Dillon 0-1, Ricky Maher 0-1 (one free), Jason Maher 0-1

BALLYFIN: Eoin Connolly; George Lanham, Jack Cleary, David Connolly; Ciaran Fingleton, Allan Connolly, Darragh Connolly; James Finn, Max Connolly; Dan Molloy, Aidan Keenaghan, Jack Priestley; Sean Moore, Ricky Quillinan, Louis Duff. Subs: Eanna Lyons for Duff (40), Nick Cosgrove for M Connolly (50), Adam Connolly for Molloy (55)

PORTLAOISE: Michael O’Connell; Chris Finn, Frank Flanagan, Ben Dempsey; Ciaran McEvoy, Gary Saunders, Gareth Dillon; Kieran Lillis, Conor Boyle; Paddy Downey, Kevin Swayne, John Kavanagh; Ricky Maher, Paul Cahillane, Damon Larkin. Subs: David Holland for Downey and Benny Carroll for Kavanagh (both 39), Jason Maher for Maher (45), Ronan McEvoy for Flanagan (50), Ben Reddin for Saunders (61, inj)

Referee: Joe Brennan (Crettyard)

SEE ALSO – Clonaslee spring as surprise to knock-out Ballylinan and reach Round 3

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Stradbally native Alan Hartnett is a graduate of Knockbeg College who has worked in the local and national media since 2008. Alan has a BA in Economics, Politics and Law and an MA in Journalism from DCU. His happiest moment was when Jody Dillon scored THAT goal in the Laois senior football final in 2016.